Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Why I love the omelet lady
We just returned from a long weekend mini-vacation in another city, and our hotel there offered a buffet breakfast for a reasonable price. We decided to check it out. The pre-cooked food looked great and smelled better, but before we grabbed plates, we spotted a short line in a far corner. Since we've been conditioned to believe a line means there's something worth waiting for, we headed on over. It was a custom order omelet/eggs/huevos rancheros/waffle line, operated by one woman. Five people stood in line between us and the cook we came to know as the "omelet lady." Four others stood to the side waiting for their orders. We decided we'd stand there long enough to see how fast the line moved, and soon we were captivated. The omelet lady was a one-person assembly line. She took orders, usually for custom omelets, then filled them. She always had four omelets going in various stages on four burners. She prepared the pans, sautéed and pre-heated ingredients, added the egg mixture, flipped, arranged, added other ingredients as ordered, folded, and slid the delicious product onto a plate. In her spare time, she operated two waffle makers or cooked other custom orders. The entire time she worked, she smiled and chatted without ever missing a beat or messing up an order. That high level of efficiency and cheerfulness is certainly enough to make me admire the omelet lady, but I didn't love her, not just yet. We placed our orders and moved over to wait with other customers, still marveling over the omelet lady's skills. That's when I noticed that when it came time to hand over the perfectly made custom orders, she had no clue who had ordered what. She looked a bit embarrassed, needlessly apologized, and explained how she looked each customer in the face as they ordered, but she was always visualizing the ingredients they specified and whether there would be a waffle or pancake sitting beside the omelet or egg order. She never could remember the faces. For whatever reason, that small quirk turned high admiration into love. We ate omelets every morning during our trip. Now we're home, and it's time for my oatmeal. I have a feeling I'll be missing the omelet lady for quite some time.